Textron hints on first Bell 525 delivery in 2015

Washington DC
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The Bell Helicopter 525 could enter service in about two years depending on negotiations with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about certification timelines for the first commercial fly-by-wire helicopter, says Textron chief executive Scott Donnelly.

Bell has never announced the certification schedule for 16-passenger super mid-size helicopter despite launching the helicopter in February 2012.

"We'll likely certify - we haven't given a hard date to customers yet, but probably sometime out in 2015," says Donnelly, speaking to analysts on the corporations second quarter earnings teleconference call on 17 July.

The 525, also called the Relentless, remains on track to fly for the first time in 2014.

But the certification timeline has always been uncertain as Bell and the FAA negotiate how to apply airworthiness standards for fly-by-wire from the fixed-wing market to the helicopter industry.

The 525's fly-by-wire system is designed by BAE Systems, which also developed the digital flight controls for the military V-22 Osprey tiltrotor.

Bell has said that experience with the V-22 and preliminary negotiations on certificating the civil BA609 tiltrotor allowed the 525 programme to have a head-start on discussions with the FAA.

Bell dropped out of the BA609 programme after partner AgustaWestland took over the effort and renamed the aircraft the AW609. The 525 is now expected to enter service at least a year ahead of the first fly-by-wire civil tiltrotor.